Tip #14 – Softening an Ending with a Shifted Cadence

When nearing the end of a phrase or musical idea, a cadence is in order to signify to the listener that we have reached a point of conclusion in some way shape or form. However, a composer way wish that the cadence not be so drastic – in the necessity to have a continuation of motion.

So how does a composer acoustically signal the end, but do it in a sophisticated way to allow the flow to continue – like a yellow light at a traffic stop?

For compositions that feature an anacrusis, or pick-up measure, a shifted cadence can work to their benefit by working off the already shifted phrasing. Take a look at an example that cadences at the strong beat 1, coming to an ultimate conclusion:

There is nothing wrong with this, but we can improve the ending by shifting it to a weaker part of the beat to essentially “lessen the blow” of the cadential figure – thus, maintaining an element of continuity to the flow of music to progress further without an abrupt stop. Here is a possible edit:

Notice that the cadence is now on beat three, which in 3/4 time is the weakest part of the measure grouping.

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